A search for neutral Higgs bosons decaying to pairs of tau leptons with the ATLAS detector at the LHC is presented. The analysis is based on proton-proton collisions at a center-of-mass energy of 7 TeV, recorded in 2010 and corresponding to an integrated luminosity of 36 pb(-1). After signal selection, 276 events are observed in this data sample. The observed number of events is consistent with the total expected background of 269 +/- 36 events. Exclusion limits at the 95% confidence level are derived for the production cross section of a generic Higgs boson phi as a function of the Higgs boson mass and for A/H/h production in the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model (MSSM) as a function of the parameters m(A) and tan beta. (C) 2011 CERN. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.